China: drug lord’s execution sparks dissent

Accused Burmese drug lord Naw Kham was executed in China on March 1 along with three accomplices in the murder of 13 Chinese merchant sailors on the Mekong River in 2011. The executions were carried out by a court in Kunming, Yunnan province. Thai national Hsang Kham, Lao national Zha Xika, and Yi Lai, who was named as “stateless,” were executed by lethal injection along with Naw Kham. In an unusual move, authorities allowed state media to film Naw Kham during his transfer from a detention center to the court’s execution area. China Central Television showed police removing Naw Kham’s handcuffs and binding his arms behind his back with rope, a standard ritual before executions in China. The executions themselves were not broadcast, as cameras were not allowed in the death chamber. But the spectacle still sparked dissent on the Internet within China. 

Han Youyi, a criminal law professor, wrote via microblog: “Rather than showcasing rule of law, the program displayed state control over human life in a manner designed to attract gawkers. State-administered violence is no loftier than criminal violence.” Prominent rights lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan insisted that the broadcast violated China’s criminal code by making a spectacle of the condemned. “I found it shocking,” he said in an interview.

Last month, a Chinese public security official told the daily Global Times that Beijing had considered using a drone strike to kill Naw Kham after his hideout had been discovered in Burma’s northern mountains. “One plan was to use an unmanned aircraft to carry 20 kilograms of TNT to bomb the area, but the plan was rejected, because the order was to catch him alive,” said Liu Yuejin, director of the Ministry of Public Security‘s anti-drug bureau. (Bangkok Post, SCMP, March 2; NYT, March 1; Global Times, Feb. 29)